Live sports streaming: the future is HD and multiscreens on your phone

The future of streaming live video at sporting events
The future is here, almost

Anyone who's been to a sporting event which has action away from where you're stood or sat will know the frustration of not being able to watch more than one thing at the same.

That's about to change though, thanks to LTE Broadcast - aka Multicast.

Say you're an avid tennis fan and you're enjoying the mixed doubles finals on centre court at the French Open.

That's great, but several other matches are happening at the same time on other courts around Roland Garros in Paris and the only information you get are brief score updates on the big screen.

Now imagine streaming any of those other matches live, in HD, to your smartphone sitting unloved in your pocket. Pretty cool, huh?

You cannot be serious

Orange and FranceTV set up a demonstration of the LTE Broadcast technology at the French Open, utilising the work Qualcomm has done in the arena to stream live games (and highlights/repeats) to a series of Samsung Galaxy S5 handsets.

As this was only a trial the video was being beamed to the handsets at 720p, but on a 5.1-inch display it was still perfectly watchable. LTE Broadcast is capable of handling not only 720p video streams, but also 1080p and 4K as well so you'll be well catered for.

LTE Broadcast

Different streams running on a host of Galaxy S5s

Some of the benefits of LTE Broadcast are that it can provide these live streams to a potentially unlimited number of devices in an area without any need for buffering and without the feed freezing on you.

On each device at the demo there were four streams available from four different matches, but this offering can be greatly increased if required, and you can jump between games (or whatever event is offering it) if one gets particularly boring.

It's not just a one-way street though, as LTE Broadcast also allows uplink from your device, allowing you to potentially interact with the streams you're receiving - be it pulling up additional stats or tweeting your thoughts.

LTE Broadcast

Watch one match on your phone, while sitting in another

There's good news for the content owners too, as Qualcomm's Senior Director Laurent Fournier explained, as LTE Broadcast supports DRM allowing those providing the streams to protect their material from piracy.

It's also cheap and easy for network operators to implement, as it uses the pre-existing hardware in terms of masts, and compatible handsets just require a software update to enable the functionality.

Game, set and match?

The trails of LTE Broadcast are still in the early stages, but the system does work and the number of compatible handsets in circulation is steadily increasing.

TechRadar was told by an Orange representative during the demonstration that the network was still waiting for more customers to have compatible handsets before rolling out the service to consumers.

That shouldn't be too far off though, as Qualcomm has confirmed that any handset sporting a LTE Snapdragon chip - be it in the 400, 600 or 800 series - requires just an over-the-air update to enable the Broadcast functionality.

LTE Broadcast

Grab your phone and tune in.

This means that LTE Broadcast isn't just limited to those of us who are rocking the latest and greatest flagship phones, but to those who have opted for more affordable 4G options as well.

Of course the larger screen sizes and higher resolutions which come with the top flagship handsets will be beneficial for the video streaming activities.

A service such as this will no doubt be monetised by many, if not all, who opt to supply the service, although exact costs and details are yet to be decided.

It's not just in-venue events and live video streams that Fournier foresees taking advantage of LTE Broadcast, with the potential for it to offer things such as breaking news, emergency alerts, e-learning, newspaper and magazine downloads and more.

In the word's of one of the network's trialling the service, the future's bright for LTE Broadcast and live video streaming on our smartphones.

John McCann
Global Managing Editor

John joined TechRadar over a decade ago as Staff Writer for Phones, and over the years has built up a vast knowledge of the tech industry. He's interviewed CEOs from some of the world's biggest tech firms, visited their HQs and has appeared on live TV and radio, including Sky News, BBC News, BBC World News, Al Jazeera, LBC and BBC Radio 4. Originally specializing in phones, tablets and wearables, John is now TechRadar's resident automotive expert, reviewing the latest and greatest EVs and PHEVs on the market. John also looks after the day-to-day running of the site.